During the decade or so that I lived in San Francisco, the highlight of the year was Burning Man — not attending it, but enjoying the peace and quiet that descended when everyone left for the desert. I looked forward all year to that week; the city took on a serene half-emptiness, which after the tumult of everyone preparing their art cars and campsites and faux fur costumes, was a dream come true.
Afterwards, of course, everyone would come back and you’d have to hear about how spiritually fulfilling it was to spend a week at summer camp, participating in a utopian experiment. But it was worth it for the few days in which you could hear yourself think a bit more clearly than usual.
My affection for occasional silence probably explains my response to some of this week’s new comic releases; one is a meditative mystery that unfolds with as few words as possible, another crams so much dialogue into the page that I couldn’t keep up. (Thanks as always to Phoenix for helping to pick out this week’s titles.) It’s not constant silence that I crave — I like the business of city life — but every now and then it’s nice to have an opportunity to relax.
A RIGHTEOUS THIRST FOR VENGEANCE ISSUE #1
This is going to sound a bit awkward, but I’m deeply impressed by the camerawork in this book — and yes I realize that comic books are not, in fact, shot on cameras. Artist André Lima Araújo has a real knack for knowing exactly how to frame a shot, how to compose a vista, and how to draw the reader’s eye in this meditative mystery. An unnamed everyman trudges through rainy Vancouver en route to an unexplained meeting; along the way, he encounters minor conundrums that seem to test his moral mettle. Does he board a bus first or let an elderly couple go ahead? How does he respond to being jostled in a supermarket? What is to be done about an injured pigeon? These series of mostly mundane choices culminate in his arrival at a house where a far more weighty and open-ended decision must be made. There’s a wonderful quiet to the story so far, economically told with a minimum of dialogue. And the unanswered questions about who the main character is and his connection to some larger intrigue is very tempting indeed.
Rating: ☔☔☔☔ (4/5)
Author: Rick Remender. Artist: André Lima Araújo. Alt cover: Tula Lotay
CHICKEN DEVIL ISSUE #1
To compare this book to a sandwich, there’s a bit too much meat in this one and not enough sauce holding it all together. This is the story of a restaurant owner who’s fallen in with organized crime; a gang of hoodlums comes after his family, and our hero responds by donning the suit of his sandwich joint’s chicken mascot and fighting back. The panels are crowded with visual detail and scratchily-lettered dialogue, and despite this kitchen-sink approach, the story is often hard to follow. I kept having to go back and make sure I didn’t skip a page. Wait, who is that guy? Wait, how did that thing blow up? Hold on, why were they in such a hurry? Perhaps these questions will be answered in a future issue, or perhaps they aren’t as important as they seem. But the questions pile up with such density that the story becomes difficult to track, like a sandwich piled so high with ingredients that there’s no way to take a bite without it all falling apart.
Rating: 🐔🐔 (2/5)
Writer: Brian Buccellato. Artist: Hayden Sherman. Colorist: Hayden Sherman. Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.
ORCS IN SPACE
Three gross, barbaric orcs have stolen a spaceship and now they’re bumbling around the galaxy causing mayhem and adventure. Now that’s what I call a premise! Suitable for readers in the nine-to-thirteenish range, this is an uncomplicated story of bright colors and comedic sci-fi slapstick. The best comedy comes whenever we see the dismayed officers of the stuffy, uptight space force whose ship was stolen; their nerdy do-goodery is no match for Orc chaos. It’s as gleefully silly-stupid as if Tasmanian Devil made off with the Enterprise. But the joke, I’m sorry to say, does wear a bit thin around the halfway point; shouting and violence are the only two tricks the orcs have up their nonexistent sleeves. I was hoping to find a few character moments here and there — when the Orcs visit a neat space-saloon, they grow momentarily contemplative and it seems as though we’re about to have a moment of vulnerability and some insight into deeper hopes and dreams than chopping things with their axes. But then they start chopping things with axes again, and we’re back into the shallow silly mayhem. It’s a fine time at first, but after the first couple dozen pages, we’ve got the idea.
Rating: 🚀🚀🚀 (3/5)
Authors: Mike Tanner, Rashad Gheith, Abed Gheith. Illustrator: François Vigneault.